State Farm, the first insurer to win approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to use drones commercially, has launched hundreds of experimental drone flights for routine roof inspections. If the technology works out, the company could eventually use drones to give them a bird’s eye view of catastrophes. State Farm has not said yet when it will deploy drones company-wide to routinely do such inspections.
More insurance companies, utilities and telecommunications firms will likely embrace drones for the more dangerous or difficult to reach inspections, says Jonathan Downey, CEO of Airware, a drone startup based in San Francisco that is working with State Farm. Airware says it works with companies find the right aircraft and navigation software, train workers to use the equipment and to steer through complex government regulations.
“If you had asked me a year ago, if insurance was going to be a major adopter of drones, I probably would have been a little skeptical,” Downey said. “It really makes a lot of sense.”
There are more and more forecasts showing insurance to be one of the bright spots in commercial drone growth. The need to get in to survey a hurricane torn or flooded area makes the headlines. The hidden part is the savings and safety of sending a drone up instead of having to send a team and a ladder to do even the most routine inspection whether to bind a property or to make a claim.
As with many other kinds of missions, companies will have to make an investment in training agents and adjusters to interpret the data. No doubt over time, AI will do more and more of this work using algorithms developed at headquarters and adjusted for local prices.